Barcelona moved up to third place in La Liga with a hard-fought 3-1 win at Deportivo Alaves on Saturday evening.
La Blaugrana have been rocked by news that Xavi will leave at the end of the season but the first-team managed to put off-field turmoil to one side to secure three valuable points in the Basque country.
Barca held on to claim victory despite the questionable sending off of January signing Vitor Roque, who received two booking in quick succession and was sent for an early shower.
How the game unfolded
Barcelona nearly conceded a penalty after only 15 seconds when youngster Pau Cubarsi hauled down Alex Sola, but the flag was raised for offside and the defender was let off the hook.
Immediately after goalkeeper Inaki Pena cleared the ball up the pitch from a free kick, Barca were defending for their lives again, with Sola this time seeing a teasing cross turned behind for a corner.
The visitors’ first chance came when Frenkie de Jong sent in a cross following a corner, picking out the run of captain Ronald Araujo. However, the Uruguayan’s header was thwarted by a heroic block from Rafa Marin.
After a frustrating first half to the opening 45, Barcelona went ahead through Robert Lewandowski. Pedri and De Jong combined well in the left channel before play shifted to Ilkay Gundogan, and he slipped Lewandowski in beyond the last line to dink home his first La Liga goal since December 10.
Pena came to Barcelona’s rescue when he clawed away a free header from Jon Guiridi, who had somehow evaded the marking of Jules Kounde.
With one final chance of the first half, a deep cross from Ruben Duarte was helped along by Ander Guevara and Pena had to be alert to clear the danger.
Just after the break, Barcelona doubled their lead. A floated cross from Pedri found Gundogan, who volleyed past Antonio Sivera to add Barca’s second.
But almost straight from kick-off, Alaves pulled one back. Sola, so often the scourge of Barca on the night, crossed for Samu Omorodion – who had given Xavi’s men trouble all evening – and his looping header wrong-footed Pena.
With almost his first touch after coming on as a substitute, Vitor Roque scored to restore Barcelona’s two-goal cushion. Lamine Yamal managed to turn away from his marker and sprint in down the right, leading the charge before the ball worked back to the left wing for Hector Fort to cross for the Brazilian forward, and he made no mistake from close range.
But Roque wouldn’t be smiling for too much longer as he picked up two…